Godolphin recruit De Sousa as potential heir to Dettori


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Two fairly momentous new chapters open on the Turf today. On the home front, an amended penalty structure is introduced ahead of the latest, dizzying revision to the whip rules. In Dubai, meanwhile, Silvestre De Sousa rides for Godolphin for the first time since accepting a post that accelerates his giddy rise through the ranks.

Judging from the fact that Frankie Dettori and Mickael Barzalona partner the two fillies saddled by Mahmood Al Zarooni in the UAE Oaks, De Sousa will be slotting into a role that reflects the sheer numbers on the Godolphin roster – just as Al Zarooni, formerly assistant to Saeed Bin Suroor, was appointed to supervise a string in his own name two years ago.

The recruitment of De Sousa, who will be riding for both trainers, certainly elevates him above the likes of Ahmed Ajtebi and Ted Durcan. But the Brazilian, though 31, has only made his breakthrough over the past couple of seasons and duly remains short of experience in big races. The same holds true, for very different reasons, of Barzalona – just 19 when he won the Derby last year – and there is now intriguing competition to stake a claim as eventual heir to Dettori, who has turned 42 since last season.

Mark Johnston, who supplied De Sousa with 70 winners as runner-up in the jockeys' championship last season, admits he will miss the rider's dynamic assistance. "I am sorry to see him go, but there's no question he's making the right decision," the trainer said. "I said to him that rather than becoming champion jockey, it was far more important to get opportunities in top races, in order to be recognised as one of the top jockeys. I have no doubt he is capable of doing that."

As for the whip saga, the British Horseracing Authority yesterday sought to reassure the RSPCA after a furious response to its latest climbdown on controversial new rules introduced last autumn. The RSPCA's respected equine consultant, David Muir, has described Tuesday's decision to increase stewards' powers of discretion as "absolutely staggering" and "a backward step".

The BHA stressed the changes would only have a marginal effect but even jockeys, broadly relieved as they are, admit some disquiet. "With the rules as they were, you knew where you stood with the amount of times you could use the whip," the Grand National-winning Jason Maguire said. "They are now giving the stewards more discretion, but stewards at one course will have different ideas to those at another."

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Time To Think (3.50 Lingfield) The form of her Plumpton success last month has proved very strong for the grade.

Next best

Colour Guard (4.10 Southwell) Looks feasibly treated against exposed rivals.

One to watch

Buck Magic (Kieran Burke) Travelled sweetly until tiring when third on his return from a long absence at Wincanton on Saturday.

Where the money's going

Salut Flo is 10-1 from 20-1 with William Hill for the Byrne Group Plate at Cheltenham next month.